The Memo: Controversial jail sentence for UK Woman who took abortion pills too late

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Controversial jail sentence for UK Woman who took abortion pills too late

Charity Agasaro – 3 July 2023

A British woman has been sentenced to over two years in prison for obtaining abortion pills after the legal limit, leading to widespread outrage. The woman, who is a mother of three, acquired the medication through the ‘pills by post’ program introduced during the Covid pandemic for pregnancies of up to 10 weeks. However, it was later discovered that she was between seven and eight months pregnant at the time she terminated the pregnancy. While abortion is generally legal up to 24 weeks in England, Scotland, and Wales, it is typically performed in a medical facility after the 10-week mark.

The woman pleaded guilty under the Offences against the Person Act, which dates back to 1861. According to the judge presiding over the case, while the woman showed both remorse and emotional attachment to the child, she deliberately deceived telemedical services to obtain the pills. The judge also noted that if she had pleaded guilty earlier, her sentence could have been suspended.

This case has drawn attention to the increasing number of women who face potential life imprisonment under existing abortion laws. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has reported a rise in such cases over the past three years. In this instance, the woman admitted to misleading BPAS about the stage of her pregnancy to acquire the pills and had also searched online about late-term abortions and the potential legal consequences of aborting a baby at 30 weeks. The defense argued that the woman required support rather than a prison term, and medical groups signed a mitigation plea urging leniency, which was submitted to the judge. However, the judge deemed the letter inappropriate and stated that imprisoning the woman would not discourage others from seeking abortion care within the legal limit.

Following the sentencing, the CEO of BPAS expressed shock and called for legislative action to address what they claim is outdated abortion laws. Campaigners and MPs criticized the case, arguing for the need to decriminalize abortion and ensure women have access to safe and legal healthcare.